Woman holding potted plant, while standing near window with potted plants in Cinequest animation "Bloom." Courtesy of Emily Johnstone.

Cinequest Film Festival Showcases Spartan Talent

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

SJSU students, alumni and staff are among the filmmakers displaying their “Neverending Passion,” the theme of this year’s Cinequest. Now in its 22nd year, the independent film festival will attract international industry members to San Jose, Feb. 28 to March 11.

Student tickets for regular movie screenings are $5 with a valid student ID, while general admission is $10. Prices vary for special events, and festival passes are also available for purchase.

Barnaby Dallas, director of productions at Spartan Film Studios, will co-moderate “How to Pitch Your Screenplay” as part of a Writers Celebration event.

“It’s just something that hasn’t been done at Cinequest,” said Dallas, regarding the interactive workshop that will give panelists and audience members a chance to practice promoting their work.

Additionally, here are some of the Cinequest films with ties to SJSU:

Two men look to the left in the Cinequest movie "Worth the Weight." Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

“Worth the Weight” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

As he attempts to lose weight, former football player Sam Roberts strikes a bond with his personal trainer Cassie in this romantic comedy directed by Ryan Sage.

Three Fun Facts About “Worth the Weight”
1.  The mother of producer Kristina Denton, ’07 Kinesiology, encouraged her daughter to supplement her acting pursuit with a “back-up plan.” Denton’s degree and background as a personal trainer came in handy when coaching the lead actress in this film. “After those days on set, I would call my mom and say, ‘See I used my degree!’” Denton said.
2. After graduating from SJSU, Denton moved to Los Angeles to study acting and pursue a career. “When I opened my personal training business as my ‘day job’ in L.A., (Sage) actually became my client while trying to get in shape for his wedding,” she said. “I trained him and his wife for about two years.”
3. “We have never met the writer!” Denton said. “We will be meeting him for the first time at Cinequest the night of the premiere!” Writer Dale Zawada sold the script for $500 on Craigslist.

A young man wearing a hat rests his head on another young man's shoulder, while they sit in a car. Image from Cinequest film “Cheap Fun.” Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

“Cheap Fun” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

College student Ian hosts friends in his garage for nightly drinking and smoking sessions, but he desires something more to life in this comedy.

Three Fun Facts About “Cheap Fun”
1. “Cheap Fun,” from Spartan Film Studios, was the subject of last year’s Rough Cut Forum at Cinequest. Audience members saw an early version and provided constructive feedback. “Most of the suggestions made it in, so the feedback was crucial to finishing this film,” said Director Zack Sutherland, ’10 Radio-Television-Film and minor in Theater Arts.
2. Some of the items at the friends’ hangout spot are actually from Sutherland’s backyard, where he and his friends used to hang out.
3. Sutherland is the radio voice in the beginning of the film. He also played drums on several music tracks and sang on one of them.

Two young boys look off to the right in "Always Learning," the film at Cinequest's Rough Cut Forum. Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

Rough Cut Forum of Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

ROUGH CUT FORUM for Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning”
The audience will watch an early version of this film about a homeschooled boy and his overbearing mother before providing feedback for the final edit.

Three Fun Facts About “Always Learning”
1.Director Robert Krakower, ’11 Radio-Television-Film and minor in Psychology, plans to finish editing the film and then submit it to multiple film festivals, including next year’s Cinequest.
2. Krakower and producer Jon Magram were both homeschooled. “Numerous things that happen in the film are from our actual experiences,” Krakower said.
3. “I didn’t let my mom read the script because I knew she’d be too embarrassed by it,” Krakower said. “She’ll be seeing the film for the first time at Cinequest.”

SJSU has two entries in this contest: “Elder Anderson,” a comedy about Mormon missionaries in Las Vegas, and “Bloom,” an animation about a lonely, depressed woman who receives a gift.


Two young men in white collar shirts, ties and black slacks and shoes are at The Strip in Las Vegas, as part of Cinequest short film "Elder Anderson." Photo courtesy of Marty Fishman.

Three Fun Facts about “Elder Anderson”
1. None of the cast or crew members are Mormons. For research, Director Daniel Maggio met with a few missionaries in San Jose to ask about their faith, the Book of Mormon and their lives as missionaries.
2. Many of the scenes are shot on location in Las Vegas, while some were shot in San Jose. “The film we made last year that played at Cinequest, ‘JIMBO,’ was being honored by the Broadcast Education Network in Las Vegas, so we wanted to make a trip out of it and film a short while we were there,” Maggio said.
3. Maggio and his crew did not receive permission to film at any Las Vegas locations, except for a bar. Instead, he said, “Every shot was creatively acquired.”

image from "Bloom"

“Bloom” (courtesy of Emily Johnstone)

Three Fun Facts about “Bloom”
1. The film won first place student short film at the CreaTV Awards and second place animation at the CSU Media Film Festival. “Nobody makes a film to win awards, and the business of awards ceremonies can be strange,” said Co-director Brian Kistler. “But it’s always nice that people respond to what you made and seem to like it.”
2. For the film, Kistler and Co-director Emily Johnstone bought amaryllis plants to study and draw from, which Johnstone later kept. “They’re just now about to bloom a year later,” she said.
3. Kistler and Johnstone paid their student crew with pizza and gummy bears. “We’re all students, just doing it for the love of creating something together,” Johnstone said. “We don’t get to collaborate on a lot of things, and it’s great to be able to make a finished product at the end.”